The left's weaponization of the term 'conspiracy theory'
While conspiracy theories have never really had a positive reputation, the '90s and early '00s were the last period in which they were given any amount of mainstream credence and popularity. In The X-Files, FBI agent Fox Mulder was portrayed as holding questionable beliefs, though he was also shown and implied be a genuine truth-seeker, eager to uncover elusive mysteries and conspiracies that had remained hidden for so long.
Fast-forward to 2000. This was the year that the video game Deus Ex was released. Considered one of the greatest video games of all time, the compelling story treats conspiracy theories as valid and plausible, with the main character's very existence being the result of mysterious, underhanded events orchestrated by dangerous, powerful, and secretive individuals.
Compare that unique, bygone zeitgeist to the one looming over us in 2021, in which the term "conspiracy theory" has been weaponized by the left in a widespread effort to delegitimize and shut down conservatives.
Oh, you're skeptical of the COVID vaccine's effectiveness and safety? What are you, a crazy conspiracy nut? You think the election was stolen from Trump? What baseless nonsense! Hmm? George Soros is behind much of the chaos we currently observe? Get out of here, you anti-Semitic racist!
Those are just a few examples of how the left fallaciously wants to use choice terms to hastily shut down the opposition. Talk of conspiracy theories has even spread to encompass religious topics, with creationists now accused of buying into a conspiracy theory. A recent article from The Conversation discussed the topic, in which the author strangely attempted to form some sort of connection between creationism and QAnon, implying that the content and rhetoric of conspiracy theories inevitably leads to violence.
One of the main problems with this newfound rhetoric is that it's a monstrous, fallacious hybrid of biased and unfair reasoning. To put it simply, when conservatives are labeled as "conspiracy theorists" in an attempt to destroy their credibility, those propagating this argumentative nonsense are guilty of using three fallacies.
To start, their attack is a blatant ad hominem. This fallacy is quite common and is simply defined as attacking your opponent's character traits or characteristics instead of his actual argument.
Secondly, these attacks are all red herrings, meaning they're using select terms to distract from an important topic, claim, or question.
Finally, these arguments are guilty of committing the poisoning the well fallacy, in which select information about the opposition is pre-emptively relayed to the audience in an attempt at ridiculing, mocking, and delegitimizing them.
It's my opinion that we should frequently call out the biased media for their fallacious attacks against genuine truth-seekers and honest skeptics. Like all claims, "conspiracy theories" should be thoroughly examined and investigated. However, the merit behind them comes from the amount of evidence in their favor and just how credible it actually is. They shouldn't be automatically labeled as wrong just because they are defined as a conspiracy theory.
On a similar note, those defined as conspiracy theorists should be treated with an expected, basic level of respect, dignity, and the potential to have credibility. In all honesty, I think it's good that we have people like them, seeking to uncover the truth and dark secrets hiding under a vast blanket of disinformation and cover-ups.
Finally, let's all try to avoid using fallacies when arguing. I've seen both conservatives and liberals use them over the years, and this flawed reasoning does nothing to legitimately help a person's argument or cause. Even if the media continue to use fallacies to smear conservatives, we shouldn't respond in kind. Indeed, we should instead argue with solid logic, reason, and evidence. I do believe that those strategies will lead to us being largely triumphant in the oh, so interesting realm of debate and discussion.
Landon Freeman is a lifelong writer, political enthusiast, and advocate for Christian apologetics.